Teaching a young, eager, and naive student how to write a sophisticated DBQ is like teaching a similarly inexperienced athlete how to successfully clear the bar in a pole vault competition. You wouldn’t set them on the runway with a 12-foot long stick and tell them to go jump....would you?


Hopefully not. Instead, you would break the task down: how to grip the pole and master the approach until planting the pole in the box is routine. Once these steps became routine, the athlete and coach move on to the kick, lift, turn, release of the pole, and landing. Only after a degree of confidence in all of this was achieved would a bar be placed across the standards and goals established.


Much is the same when writing the DBQ—students need to work with the different parts of the document to eventually put it all together. The only difference is that with the DBQ there is no magic sequence: teachers can begin with thesis writing or document dissecting or context relating. A glance at the rubric tells you what parts need individual attention: the thesis, context, the correct interpretation, sourcing and application of documents as well as the relevant use of outside information, and finally the two points that can be earned through analysis.


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Dave Drzonek is in his 23nd year of teaching at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Illinois, and has been teaching AP® World History since 2006. He is currently a Senior Reviewer and Writer for the AP® World History: Modern coursebook by AMSCO® and has developed and delivered AP® World History content for the online video-based AP® test prep service GetAFive. He has also been a reader for the Advanced Placement® World History Exam. He earned his M.A. in Teaching, Curriculum and Instruction at Governors State University in Illinois. He believes that there is no greater way to spend a lifetime than teaching.


Charles Hart is a veteran teacher of eight different AP® courses and has been a table leader for World History since 2004.  He was involved in the process of designing the course back in 1992 and 2001, and has been asked by the College Board to be a presenter for the discipline at their annual conference. Each summer he conducts numerous AP® World History APSIs and has presented in 17 states and 5 foreign countries. He has worked as a consultant on five different AP® World History textbooks to update their student editions. He has been married to his wife, Barbara, for fifty-three years and has two children and five grandchildren.